Frequently Asked Questions
Who Is Riverside? Riverside is an independent, non-denominational community church.  What that means is, we don’t have anyone telling us what to do, think or say.  We have no centralized organization that controls us.  There are good things and hard things associated with that reality.  But in a nutshell it means we are free to be what we feel like God is asking us to be right here in Eagle River, Alaska.

Riverside is a church that focuses on Jesus.  When we were dreaming of what kind of church God might create here we wondered what a church that treated people who walked through its doors the way Jesus treated people who came to Him might look like.  The result is Riverside.  It’s not always pretty, it’s definitely not organized (we are the poster church of “disorganized religion”), but it’s a pretty amazing place for the people who need what we offer.

Coffee & Donuts?  We want you to make yourself at home.  Coffee & donuts are available in the kitchen and you can bring them into the auditorium during the service.  We know a lot of churches might frown on this kind of behavior but from what we can tell the first church services (almost 2,000 years ago now) were held in people’s homes and usually revolved around a meal so we figure we’re just doing what they did… kind of… we’re not sure they had donuts back then.
Riverside's "Campus"- Obviously we aren’t the fanciest spot in Eagle River.  There are churches out there that are bigger, louder, slicker, hipper, & more convinced of their “rightness”.  Our facilities are showing their wear.  I don’t imagine that’s going to change anytime soon either.  We could choose to launch a building campaign to deal with the age of our building and th
e fact that we’re busting at the seams but in order to do that we’d have to become a different church with a different focus.  We’d have to talk a lot more about money (see our FAQ on money below)and get a lot more organized and so far that hasn’t been God’s plan for Riverside.  


I imagine at this point the only way we end up with a new facility is if one of the pastors wins the lottery or if Ty Pennington decides to come to Alaska and do an Extreme Makeover: Church Edition (which let’s face it… what are the odds of that?).


So until one of those things happens we’ll just keep adding services as we grow and see what God has in store for us.  It’s been an adventure so far I’ll tell you.

"Typical" Services- Our gatherings are more like a family get together than a somber ritual (not that there’s anything wrong with somber rituals… it’s just not our style ;0)  Depending on the phase of the moon (not sure why full moons seem to bring out the loud in kids and even some adults but it sure seems to…. of course all research is purely anecdotal and not scientific in any way) or the service you find yourself at there may be quite a lot of distractions.  Sorry about that.  It’s just part of who we are at Riverside and the people we seem to attract. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Communion- We do this every week here at Riverside.  Why?  It’s just the way we do it.  It’s our tradition.  Some churches do it once a month, others once a quarter, some only once a year.  We do it every week.  Anyone who considers themselves to be a follower of Jesus is welcome to join us.  While a video plays on screen a plate of crackers and a tray of small cups of juice will get passed around.  Just take a cracker and a cup and pass the plates on.  You don’t need to wait for everyone else… just eat the cracker and drink the juice.  If you’re not sure what all of this is about, explaining the whole meaning behind communion/Lord’s Supper would take all day.  Suffice it to say that Jesus asked us to do this to remember Him.  So that’s what we do.  If you want to take this time to remember Jesus then we are delighted for you and your family to join us. 


If you’d rather not, just take the trays as they’re passed your way and pass them on.  Sometimes we have young men and women who help pass the trays, if they try to hand it back to you just shake your head and they’ll get the picture.  More than anything we want you to feel at home here. 

Kids & Communion- Sometimes we get the question, “what about my kids?  When should/can they take communion? 

At Riverside we don’t have a policy on this (you’ll come to learn we don’t have too many policies on anything around here).  We let each family decide for themselves.  Some parents let their kids take communion.  Others have their kids wait til they get baptized.  It’s totally up to each family.  The way we tend to look at it is, communion is a family event at Riverside.  Our kids are part of the family.  So if they take part in remembering Jesus, that’s just fine with us.  

Kids At Riverside- There are lots of different theories about how to handle kids in church.  Some churches don’t allow them in the sanctuary and require parents to drop them off at children’s church, some churches require the kids to sit quietly and politely through the entire service being “seen but not heard” (the kind of church I grew up in).  There’s not a “right” way to handle kids… with one exception.  When kids come to church we believe they should leave feeling blessed.


Every time you see Jesus interacting with children it’s in response to His followers trying to corral the kids and get them to stopping them from being disruptive.  And in every case, Jesus corrects the adults and says to let the kids come to Him.


One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.  But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.  Matthew 19:13-15


At Riverside we have one goal when it comes to our kids.  We want them to go home feeling like they were blessed.  We could focus on a lot of different things when it comes to kids.  We could try to pump them full of Bible knowledge or we could train them on how to behave properly in church.  There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches… it’s just not what we choose to focus on at Riverside.  At Riverside we feel like if the kids learn something then that’s fantastic, but our number one goal is to show them the love of Jesus and to make them feel like there’s an adult out there who cares about them and believes in them and is glad they came to church.


A person who has grown up in church can always study the Bible as an adult to gain the knowledge they missed out on as a child in Sunday school but it’s really tough to make an adult believe that God cares about them deeply if they didn’t feel that (or felt the opposite) from the adults at the church they grew up in.


As it turns out, you have a super power when it comes to the children in any church you attend.  I know what you’re saying, “I have zero power over the kids of this church… they won’t do a thing I say!”  And you’re right, your super power isn’t an ability to control a child’s actions.  Your super power is in your ability to make a child think that way you look at them is how God looks at them.  To make them feel like the way you value them (or not) is the way God values them (or doesn’t).  You have a tremendous power and (we think) responsibility to the children who go to church with you.  How might you make them feel blessed before they leave today? 

Video Clips In Church?  Pastor Ed uses video clips from popular (and sometimes not so popular ;0) movies, TV shows and internet videos.  Sometimes these clips perfectly illustrate the point Pastor Ed is making.  Sometimes the audience is baffled by the clip. Why did he show that clip?  It was funny but I don’t see what spiritual point was made with it?  


One of our highest values at Riverside is fun.  We think that if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth making it fun.  Jesus got in trouble with the religious leaders of His day because He was enjoying Himself a little too much for their tastes.  Jesus replied to them (speaking about Himself), “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and enjoying life.” (Matthew 11:19).  So sometimes the only spiritual goal that is met when Pastor Ed shows a clip is the goal of enjoying life (and church).  We want church to be fun so we use silly video clips from shows like Modern Family, Seinfeld, Monty Python, Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber, etc., etc., etc…


And one unforeseen benefit has been that many people who had given up on church have been drawn to Riverside by these silly video clips.  We’ve heard over and over again, “I wasn’t paying attention to anything you guys were saying until you showed that clip from (fill in the blank)… then I thought, hmmmmmmm, maybe there’s more to this than I thought”.


Another thing I hear over and over is somebody saying, “I can’t watch Star Wars (or Modern Family or Seinfeld or Lost or 24 or Ace Ventura or…) anymore without thinking about Jesus”. 

To us, that’s a win. 

How Do I "Follow" Jesus? You’ll probably notice pretty quickly that most everything here at Riverside revolves around Jesus.  One of our catchphrases (we have several) is, “No Guilt Trips, No Pressure Tactics, No Politics, Just Jesus”.  We don’t try to figure out what every detail of your life following Jesus will look like, instead we try to show people how awesome life with Jesus can be and then let Him guide their decisions.  That’s when miracles happen (as opposed to temporary behavioral modifications which is what we’d get from you if we tried to control and manipulate your thoughts, words and actions).


If you’ve decided to give following Jesus a try, first of all let me say,  “THAT’S AWESOME!!!!!”  Ok… now for any questions you might have.  Here are a few that we commonly hear:


How do I start?  Great question.  Sometimes people make it seem very complicated but it’s not.  To start walking with Jesus all you have to do is say, “I’m in!” (you don’t have to say it out loud… Jesus can hear your thoughts…).  


I need more info… what do I say?  Ok… if you want a template prayer for giving your life to Jesus here’s something you might say:  


“Jesus, I want to follow You.  Take my life and show me where to go next.  Teach me to hear your voice and as I read the Bible give me wisdom and understanding.  Amen.”

I Gave My Life To Jesus- Now What?  Great question.  In a nutshell following Jesus means that you ask Him to show you how to live your life.  You ask the question, "how does following Jesus change the way I do my job; treat my family/friends; watch TV or surf the internet; handle my money; budget my time; think; talk; behave…"


We’ve noticed that there are certain indicators that people who seem to thrive in their spiritual lives share.  Here’s the list:


  1. Reflection on the Bible:  The Bible says in Psalms:

Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked, who don’t go where sinners go, who don’t do what evil people do.   They love the LORD’S teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night.  They are strong, like a tree planted by a river.  The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don’t die.  Everything they do will succeed.  Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)

One of the things that people who are close to Jesus have in common is that they reflect on the Bible.  You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to reflect… all you have to do is read a little bit and then reflect or think about what it means for you in your life.  If you need a Bible let me know and I’ll give you one that uses modern day language and is easy to understand.  

The best place to start if you’re wanting to reflect on the Bible is with the book of James (it’s towards the back of the Bible) which is a practical, how-to guide when it comes to living the life Jesus created you to live.  It was written by one of Jesus’ brothers.  

Another good book to read is the gospel of John.  It’s the story of Jesus’ life from the perspective of His best friend.  You’ll learn a lot about Jesus in the book of John.  

When you read ask yourself if there’s anything there that you need to start doing in your own life.  When you read the book of James you’ll find tons of stuff that James suggests (being careful what we say, think & do; how to handle our anger; how to treat other people; and on and on) and if you reflect on it and think about it and then try to do what it says, well that’s one of the key predictors or characteristics of people who have a thriving life with Jesus.


  1. Service To Others:  People who have gone through addiction recovery programs are told of the importance of making your life about more than just yourself.  Sponsors tell the Sponsored that they will never grow if they don’t learn to turn their focus outward.    

They’re not wrong.  

I’ve talked to a lot of graduates from recovery programs who I see when I’m out and about from time to time.  

When I ask them how they’re doing I get various responses… but one common theme from all of them is this... if they’re doing good and having a great life they are always involved in some kind of service to other people and if their life sucks (their words, not mine) it always turns out they’re not involved in giving back at all.  I don’t know what it is about giving back that is so powerful but it is.  The Bible says this”

God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. 1 Peter 4:10 (TLB)

God made you the way He made you on purpose.  You’re not like anyone else that has ever lived.  He put you together with all your gifts, skills, abilities, likes/dislikes and personality so that you could have your own unique way of giving back that nobody else can duplicate.  When you try different things to discover what will be the most meaningful way for you to give back you will discover why God created you the way He did and you’ll feel what it means to really be alive.  So give back in any way you can.


  1. Be Generous To Others:  

It would seem like if you’re generous with what God has blessed you with (your time, energy, talents & resources) then that will leave you with less.  But the opposite is actually true.  When we are generous we find we get back more than we’ve given.  As it turns out we can’t out give God.  Jesus put it this way:

Give, and you will receive. You will be given much. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.  Luke 6:38 (NCV)

When we try to hold on to things that are important to us with a death grip we end up being defined by those things… and not only defined but dominated and enslaved by those things.  Jesus also said this:

Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Matthew 6:21 (CEV)

That’s just the way human hearts work… they follow whatever we decide to treasure the most.  If you treasure money, your heart will follow and you will be come greedy and stingy.  If you treasure control your heart will follow and you will become insecure and a control freak.  If you treasure pleasure your heart will follow and you will become addicted to drugs, alcohol or even sex.  We need to watch carefully what we treasure.

So what’s the antidote to treasuring things that will ultimately enslave us if we’re not careful?  Generosity & gratitude.  Be generous with the things you have and grateful for what God has blessed you with and you will be doing one of the things that most predicts a close relationship with Jesus.


  1. Find a community to belong to:  

People are not meant to go through life alone.  We were created to live in community.  But it’s not always easy to find community in this day and age (at least not the kind that supports you as you grow closer to Jesus rather than tries to drag you away).  That’s why the Bible talks about community in terms of people “choosing” to belong.  You have to go out and find community sometimes and then choose to belong to other people and to let other people belong to you.  It’s not a comfortable thing for 21st century Americans but it is one of 5 predictors of a close and meaningful relationship with Jesus.  It is also important because there are dangers in being alone and benefits to being with others:

Two people are better than one…  If one falls down, the other can help him up.  But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls,  because no one is there to help.  
Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NCV)

Sometimes we might try to talk ourselves into the delusion that we’re strong enough to handle things alone.  Even if that were true (which it’s not… you might be strong right now but the day will come when even the strongest of us will have some kind of problem we can’t handle on our own and if we haven’t found a community of people to belong to we’ll have a tough time), what makes you think this is just about you?  God designed you the way you are so you could make a difference in this world.  And He wants you to be in community with others so that if you need help there will always be somebody there to help… but also so that when someone else needs help you might be able to help them.  Both of those things are important when it comes to discovering what God put you on this earth to do.


  1. How You Handle Pain

The fifth predictor of a close relationship with Jesus relates to how you look at and how you handle the pain and tough times that you will go through in your life.  

Some people will tell you that if you’re going through troubles and pain then it must be your fault.  There’s a fancy Greek Bible word for that kind of thinking: 


Now we can make stupid decisions and cause more than our share of pain.  I was an expert at that when I was a young man but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Even if you could do everything exactly right (and nobody can do that except Jesus and even He had to deal with trouble and pain on a regular basis) you would still have your share of tough times just because we live in a world that has been infected by sin.  Because of that we have to deal with pain, disease, natural disasters & other people whose poor decisions impact us in ways that can bring severe pain and suffering.  The Bible puts it like this:

The good man does not escape all troubles— he has them too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one.    Psalm 34:19 (TLB)

Unfortunately, pain is something all of us have to deal with.  But how you handle it and how you think about it has everything to do with whether that pain will make you bitter or stronger.  Tough times aren’t fun… but they do have an upside (if you handle think about them this way):

Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.  For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.   So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.  
James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Joy?  Let them be an opportunity for joy?  I don’t know about you, but that’s a tough one for me… maybe someday I’ll get there.  Until then I’ll push through them the best I can knowing that if I bring my troubles to Jesus and lean on Him through the storms of life that are part of everyone’s experience then I will become strong and ready for anything.  But there’s one more thing I try to remember whenever I’m going through tough times and that’s this… no matter what I’m going through Jesus can redeem it and make something beautiful of my life no matter what hard things I’ve had to go through in the past.  The Bible says it like this:

We know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.  Romans 8:28 (TLB)

I like to think of this as the “chocolate chip cookie” promise.  If you look at the ingredients in a chocolate chip cookie (flour, eggs, sugar, shortening, vanilla, chocolate chips, milk, salt, etc) you’ll see that some of them are pretty good all by themselves (sugar, milk, chocolate chips).  Some of them are neither good or bad by themselves (salt, vanilla, etc) but some of them are lousy all by themselves (flour, raw eggs, shortening).  But when you mix them all up and bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees you come up with something absolutely wonderful (warm chocolate chip cookies are, in my humble opinion, one of the proofs that a loving God does indeed exist).

Our experiences are the same in a way.  There are some of your past experiences that are really good, some that are neither good or bad, and some that are painful to think about and make you wonder if you’ll ever get past them.  God’s promise from Romans 8:28 says that He will take all your experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) and mix them together and what comes out when He’s finished is something beautiful no matter what’s happened to you or whose fault it was or wasn’t.  

When we remember these things as we go through the tough times in our lives it is one of the characteristics and predictors of a close, meaningful relationship with Jesus.

Money, Money, Money Money... One thing you may notice is that we don’t pass a plate for collections.  In fact, we almost never talk about money at Riverside.  Why?  Because the number one excuse people give when asked why they won’t go to church is, “all they care about it my money!”


Well, at Riverside we take that objection right off the table.  It’s just another way we do church “different”.  You see, we think it’s a tragedy that people have been given the impression that all God (and the church) cares about is people’s money.  We don‟t want to perpetuate that myth... even if that means we take in fewer dollars every week. Passing a plate might increase our budget but we figure if we‟re asking you to trust God with your finances we should be willing to do the same with ours. 


So you won’t see a collection plate.  You won’t hear a 10 minute sermonette where we pressure you to pony up or face the wrath (and the scowls) of the church ladies sitting all around you (we’ve noticed not all “church ladies” are chicks. some of them are dudes ;0).  We only want you to give if you want to.  The Bible puts it this way:


You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”  2 Corinthians 9:7


So fear not the offering plate… at least at Riverside.  You’ll only hear us talk about money a couple of times a year when it falls naturally within a lesson series that we’re doing (the Bible does talk A LOT about how we handle our money so it’s unavoidable) but other than that, you can relax.  


Now does that mean we don’t need money at Riverside?  No.  It doesn’t.  We are an independent, non denominational church.  That means we don’t get money flowing in from outside sources.  All the ministries of Riverside are made possible only because of the generous donations of people who believe in what we are doing and are partnering with us to make a difference in Eagle River.


In fact we give this disclaimer:


If you think all Riverside is concerned with is separating you from your cash, and you don’t trust us, then don’t give to us (did you hear that?  That was the sound of our treasurer passing out when he read those words ;0)


But seriously, if you don’t trust us, then don’t give to us.  But don’t let that keep you from finding some deserving ministry that is doing God’s work and blessing your community or the less fortunate in the world, and giving to them.  You being generous with the money God has entrusted to you is a HUGE part of learning what it means to thrive in the life that Jesus dreamed of you living when He created you.


So be generous and thrive!

How Many People Attend Riverside? That's an interesting question. The answer depends on what Sunday you choose to visit. If you chose to make your first visit on Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve you might be joined by about 800 people here at Riverside spread out over 4 different services. If you visit on a typical Sunday during the winter you would see an average of 400 people here. But if you visit Riverside during the summer you would see an average of about 300. 


The summer is when Alaskans get out to soak up every bit of available sunshine so they can survive the dark winters, so numbers understandably drop when the sun comes out. Which service you choose to attend will also determine how many people you see... Saturday nights generally have the most elbow room while the two Sunday morning services tend to have about 175 people in each time slot.  Which service fits you best? Try them out and see for yourself.

How Do I Get "Connected"?  Great question.  The short answer is, it depends.  With three different service times and a wildly fluctuating membership (Alaska is an incredibly transient place between the military, the oil workers and just the fact that people either love it here or HATE it) it can be tough to plug in and get to know people.


We have a regular midweek Bible study led by Pastor Ed that you can come to which will help you get to know people.  Joining in with the life of the church is another great way to get to know people.  Between our Easter Egg Hunt, our vacation Bible school in the summer, our Harvest Festival in the fall and other service opportunities you’ve got several options.  


We also try to “create” groups every now and then.  Keep your eyes open for the next “Extended Family Group” opportunity where we throw people together for fun, food and fellowship.  In the past some of the groups took off and created a sense of family, others fizzled.  What was the key?  We honestly don’t know.  I guess the moral is, if you tried on group that failed then try again.  Sometimes the second time is the charm.


But you can also try creating your own group.  If you would love to be a part of a men’s fellowship that met for coffee and Bible study once a week in the early morning before work then let us know and we’ll put the word out.  If there’s interest it will work out, if not… well… ummmmmm.  I guess the moral is, you never know if you don’t try. 


You can create any group you want.  Games and fun, deep reflective Bible study, little kids play group, hiking, hunting, gastronomy (it’s a real thing… I looked it up ;0), book club… the possibilities are endless.  The only thing we ask is that your group follows the spirit and philosophy of Riverside Community Church.  In other words, everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect and anything’s possible.  And no guilt trips, no pressure tactics, no politics, just Jesus.  


Contact Pastor Ed if you’d like to give forming a group of your own a try.

What If I Decide To Leave Riverside?  The short answer is, We will miss you, we might even shed a tear as you leave.  But we will wish you and your new church family well.  


When we say we do church different here at Riverside we don’t mean to imply that our way of doing church is the only way or even the best way, it’s just the way we think God is asking us to do church.  If that fits in with where you are on your today in your spiritual journey towards a thriving life with Jesus then join us.  And if the day comes where God is ready to move you to another church (for whatever reason) then we want you to listen to Him and not worry about hurting our feelings.  It happens all the time.  People come to Riverside from other churches and we welcome them with open arms.  People leave Riverside to go to other churches and they are welcomed at their new churches with open arms.  


We will love you the best we can while you call Riverside home and then cheer for you from afar if God ever moves you on to another place.

What If I Need To Talk?  Email one of the Pastor Ed and set up a meeting to chat (  As the church has grown we have taken every available space for classrooms for the kids so none of the pastors have their own private offices, consequently most meetings take place local coffee shops (Jitters or Starbucks… your choice).  We’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and talk about whatever’s on your mind.
Contact Janet Wells ( ) and let her know you’d like to help out.  She’ll let you know how to move forward.
What If I Have Teens or Pre-Teens? First of all you have our condolences (KIDDING...ONLY KIDDING!!!) We've got programs for kids from 4th grade all the way up through high school. Email us and we'll put you in contact with the people running those ministries.